Sunday, February 8, 2015

Corbella: This slippery slope leads to Holland and Belgium

This article was published in the Calgary Herald on February 7, 2015.

Licia Corbella
y Licia Corbella

Mark this day of infamy down in your calendars. Remember it. Friday, February 6, 2015. Think of it as the tip of the stern deck on the Titanic, just as the bow end starts to sink. The orchestra is still playing. But eventually, the deck still above water becomes vertical, sweeping everyone — children, infants, everyone — down its slick slope.

This, of course, is the day that the Supreme Court of Canada ruled unanimously to allow us to legally kill other people with a scratch of a pen and some barbiturates.

In the landmark 9-0 decision, the high court ruled that the Criminal Code provision against helping someone to commit suicide deprives people suffering from serious medical conditions the right to life, liberty and security of the person, as guaranteed under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The ruling limits physician-assisted suicides to “a competent adult person who clearly consents to the termination of life and has a grievous and irremediable medical condition, including an illness, disease or disability, that causes enduring suffering that is intolerable to the individual in the circumstances of his or her condition.”

The court also ruled that the nature of the suffering includes either physical or psychological pain, and that the person’s condition need not be terminal.

So how does this seemingly reasonable ruling wind up like the deck on the Titanic? Because that wording is remarkably similar to the wording that started off guiding the Netherlands, Switzerland and Belgium. Horrific abuses are occurring there now. Eventually, this “right” will get extended. The argument goes, if it’s medically acceptable — or preferable — to euthanize adults of right mind who are suffering intolerably, such “compassion” should be extended to youth, infants, non-verbal dementia patients and others. This is not hypothetical. This is happening now.
“Recently, a depressed healthy man who was retired, but alone and lonely, died by euthanasia in the Netherlands. In Belgium, a healthy depressed woman died from euthanasia after experiencing the breakup of a long-term relationship. In Switzerland, a man died by assisted suicide after receiving a wrong diagnosis,” writes Alex Schadenberg, the executive director of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition (EPC).
Hugh Scher
Toronto human rights and constitutional lawyer Hugh Scher wrote: 
“Today’s court decision imposes on Parliament which has clearly chosen not to legalize euthanasia or assisted suicide, despite 30 years of study, to introduce measures to attempt to protect vulnerable people, measures that have failed miserably elsewhere once the genie of intentional killing is out of the bottle and permissible. 
“Reviews of other jurisdictions such as Belgium and the Netherlands suggest that regimes of legalized euthanasia and assisted suicide have been universally unsuccessful in preventing non-consensual deaths, deaths without request, or in enforcing clear violations of the law, whether they be failure on the part of doctors to report (47 per cent in Belgium), death without request or consent (32 per cent in Belgium), and the abject failure to prosecute violators of the law,” says Scher, who argued before the Supreme Court on behalf of the EPC on this case.
Proponents of physician-assisted suicide will scoff at the slippery slope argument. Will they scoff when a depressed 17-year-old demands the same rights as a cancer-ridden 97-year-old? Perhaps they still will, until it’s their child.

I have spoken with a woman, Diane, who says that if Canada had legalized physician-assisted suicide 10 years ago, she would be dead today. And that would be a crying shame. She was very depressed then and had attempted and failed at committing suicide. Instead of being given a lethal injection, she got the help she needed and is now gainfully employed in her profession, passing on wisdom and love to her children and receiving untold joy from her grandchildren.
“I just needed some medication and a bit of counselling, not a death sentence,” she said. “The world is a better place because I’m in it, and I don’t say that in a conceited way. I’m highly educated and productive. I have a lot to offer the world.”
February 6, 2015 — a date of infamy — marks the beginning of the end for people like Diane. Woe Canada.

Licia Corbella is a columnist and the editorial page editor.

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